By: Dr. Idit Harel Caperton
The idea of “student-centered learning” coupled with “networked learning” has tossed the idea that all learning should only happen through schooling. No longer do classroom walls or school schedules dictate when high-quality learning occurs. Through certain uses of networked technology programs and tools, the lines between educator and learner have become more blurred—allowing individuals to serve in both roles at different times of the day.
In the past 30 years, we have gradually learned how to use technology to empower young people to be the drivers of their learning experiences—and we have also learned to expect that the “circle of institutions” surrounding those learners must work together to provide young persons with the best possible means for exploring knowledge through self-driven projects, and creating 360-degree experiences that cultivate positive and productive futures for youth.
It’s no longer about when or where kids study (via schooling), but rather HOW and WHAT they learn (via self-learning in and out of school). For example, Connected learning focuses on how—hands-on, production-centered, open-networked, socially-meaningful—and what—interest-driven, relevant, real-world linked—young people learn. This new vision of learning, driven by technological advances, happening in schools, communities, homes and online changes the way we think about where and when young people can learn.
In parallel, the ideas of learning to play and playing to learn are increasingly merging—even in the most traditional settings. Recent trends have shown that the ‘education system’ is progressively adopting the idea of gaming as a strategy for learning. Seminal initiatives like Quest to Learn, a school based on gaming inside the New York City Public School System, established by the Institute of Play, and the Educational Gaming Commons at Penn State University have demonstrated that learning through gaming and gamification can be effective and systemic methodology—often more engaging in helping youth learning many school subjects and beyond. A recent Knewton infographic lays out the progression of “gaming in education,” and underscores the potential for games to deliver meaningful learning experiences for youth.
World Wide Workshop takes the idea of learning by gaming a step further. Drawing upon connected learning principles, its mission is to teach educators and learners to think about mathematics, engineering and science, and even civics and health, by becoming capable game-makers, not just game players.
This is based on Piagetian and Papertian theories of cognitive development indicating that a creator role allows people to 1) take charge of representing and constructing explanations about complex concepts; 2) self-drive their learning experience through designing games about topics that are difficult or of interest to them; and 3) build real-world technical skills that can help them in future academic studies and careers.
Teaching kids how to create playful games also drives a social learning experience that makes learning meaningful, fun and interesting. And by partnering with public schools, charter schools and community-based organizations like libraries and the Boys & Girls Clubs, we form a network of meaningful and deep learning experiences when or where it works for kids.
Learners should become the center of the experience—and they should become the drivers of how and what they learn in all kinds of places, schools included. We must empower them to pursue their passions and seek out mentors and experts who can help them navigate their self-learning paths, outside of just their regular schooling.
It’s time to look beyond the rigid physical and time boundaries of only schooling for learning, and establish methods for engaging kids in connected learning all the time and everywhere.